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YEARS OF WANDERINGS   '                   225

magistrate of Huangchow. This girl, Shengchih, was the magistrate's
favourite. The magistrate had been a very great and dear friend of Su
' Tungpo, but he had died and the girl had remarried. When Su Tungpo
^saw this beautiful girl appear gaily at the dinner, he was deeply touched,
' and thinking of his dear friend, his eyes moistened with tears and his
throat choked. This amused Shengchih, who could not conceal her
laughter and turned round to make remarks to others. Su left the table
feeling very badly about it, and he told his friends that one should never
marry a concubine, citing Shengchih as an example.

The Emperor fell ill, and on March i his mother, the Empress
Dowager, wife of Ingtsung, began to act as regent. On March 5 the
Emperor died, and on the following day an edict was issued granting
$u*s request to stay at the lake district The news meant much to Su,
for now,his wish was fulfilled and his plan settled. The family then
>began to move back to Ishing, leaving the Southern Capital on April 3,
and arriving at their new home in the lake district on May 22, 1085.

At long last, Su Tungpo believed he was going to settle there for life.
"For ten years the search for a home has been in vain, but now I
am really to be an old farmer." He was going to spend his old age in
idyllically beautiful surroundings. He could come and go in a small
boat while his "spirit travelled unfettered beyond the material universe".

As fate would have it, just as his plan for a place of retirement had
been realised, the news came that he was recalled to office. There was
^ardly an interval of ten days between his arrival at Ishing and the news
.oi his appointment as chief magistrate of Tengchow, near Chefoo. He
was told of the rumour which had come from the capital, but refused
to believe it, saying that the capital was always full of rumours, and that
there was no mention of it in the latest court bulletin, of April 17.

Su Tungpo was confused, and at heart he hated the change. A few
days later, the official appointment arrived. The family was overjoyed
and the children cried that they could not believe it. But in a poem Su
Tungpo compared himself to a poor thoroughbred who had passed
his prime and "had no desire to graze on the top of the Tienshan
Mountain". In another poem he said: "Coming down south, I was
prepared to take up farming, and after my garden was completed, I
should have been able to enjoy many happy days. Who would think
that in my remaining years I would have to be in the city again? I
feel like a tired horse who balks at climbing up a hill." In his letter to
Foyin, he said: "I am going to enter the village of scoundrels again";
and he wrote to Mi Fei: "I feel unhappy and a little worried at the
thought of re-entering the troublous life of politics in my old age."

Nevertheless he accepted the post. The Empress Dowager was setting
things moving. Szema Kuang had been appointed chief of the imperial